How to switch your energy supplier and find a cheaper deal for gas and electric with advice from Uswitch, Money Saving Expert, Ofgem and Energy UK
The amount that millions of us pay for gas and electric will go up this winter.
Regulator Ofgem has confirmed the price cap, which controls the amount suppliers can charge us for our energy, is being allowed to rise in response to rising wholesale energy costs.
This means that those on variable tariffs or pre-paid metres face paying a staggering £139 more a year for their energy from October, with huge concerns being raised about the impact on low income and vulnerable customers.
If you're one of the estimated 15 million households likely to be affected by the price cap rise, energy experts advise that switching your tariff or even your supplier is likely to be the easiest and quickest way to save and guard against rising costs this winter. Here's how:
What's the difference between a fixed plan and a variable tariff?
A fixed price energy tariff means that the unit price you are charged for your gas and electricity will not change for the duration of the plan. For as long as you are signed up, or locked in, the price you pay for each unit of energy your household use will remain the same.
A variable rate means that this energy price can change, which can make it harder for households to budget and plan for what their energy bills are likely to cost over the coming months.
Alongside often being among the cheaper deals, a fixed rate tariff can offer you some security and rule out the risk that your unit price will suddenly rocket. The energy rice cap applies if you're on a standard variable rate tariff. Learn more here about the price cap and whether it's going to impact you.
Fixed price energy deals are a great way of securing a good deal and will lock in both the standing charge and unit cost of your energy.
If you've been on a fixed price plan, being moved over to the standard or default tariff when that deal expires, is often more expensive. So as one plan nears the end it's a good idea to begin looking for another.
Not switching means you risk paying more for your gas and electricity.
According to Ofgem regulations you should not pay anything for moving suppliers or switching tariffs with 49 days of your existing plan ending. And, says Uswitch, your current supplier should notify you before you existing deal ends to give you enough time and notice to begin researching a new one.
How do I go about switching?
Uswitch advises, where possible, to lock into a deal that means you're either paying the same or less than you have been during the past year. While that isn't always possible, as the cost of energy escalates, the first thing to be aware of is how much energy your home is using, and what you've been paying for that, before you start looking for another deal.
And remember don't wait to switch - you can begin looking for a new deal up to 49 days before your existing fixed plan is set to end.
Your existing supplier may alert you, as your fixed plan is coming to an end, to other deals and tariffs it has available. If you're happy with your existing provider you may choose to stay with that company and simply move to a different fixed rate plan it has available.
But it's important to remember your current company won't share with you deals from other suppliers, using a comparison site is often the easiest way to do this, so it's worth checking before making the decision to stay with who you're already with.
On its website, energy regulator Ofgem, has a list of approved energy comparison sites it recommends customers use to find a new deal for their gas and electric. Click here to find the list.
Things to consider before switching
The biggest reason to switch suppliers or move to a new fixed plan is to lower or control the cost of your gas and electric. But there are other things you might wish to consider too before making a move to a new company or payment plan.
Ofgem suggests those looking to switch also consider a supplier's customer service, whether there are exit fees to leave a plan that might affect you, is there any cashback available or other incentives on offer that might make one particular deal or company more attractive than others?
It is also worth looking out for the Energy Switch Guarantee, which is a series of commitments more than 90% of the market have signed up to, which guarantees a simple, safe and reliable switch. You can find out more about the Energy Switch Guarantee, from Energy UK, here.
How long does it take
It takes on average about 21 days to switch suppliers, but sometimes transfer times are quicker.
It's important to remember that you won't be charged twice, or be left without an energy supplier, at any point during the process.